Editor’s Note: We invited Kyle Swafford, Director of IT Services for Bergelectric, to share the story of Bergelectric’s evaluation of Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS-S and their subsequent migration from Novell Groupwise to Google Apps using Google Apps Authorized Reseller SADA Systems, Inc.

Since our founding in 1946, Bergelectric Corporation has provided electrical contracting on thousands of construction projects for clients such as Phoenix International Raceway, the FBI, the University of Southern California, and Ritz Carlton Hotels. Bergelectric has more than 1,300 field employees and over 400 office professionals coast to coast.

Our company had been a Novell Groupwise shop for many years, and IT staff had begun to feel increasing frustration with the platform due to its stagnancy. They were forced to dedicate substantial time and resources to maintaining servers across many sites nationwide. And we had to enforce email storage quotas of 100MB, though this amount of storage was often inadequate for users. Collaboration possibilities were practically nonexistent. In short, this aging environment wasn’t keeping pace with Bergelectric and this created a significant challenge for the organization.

The choice to move to a hosted e-mail service was discussed passionately at every level of the company and marked a significant departure from the costly, and dated, infrastructure constraints of our on-premise system. After we made the decision to move to a hosted provider, we spent a considerable amount of time comparing offerings, including Microsoft BPOS-S and Google Apps. Initially we found Microsoft BPOS-S an attractive option, but as we delved deeper into the contract and piloted a production environment deployment we found the BPOS-S solution came up short - even with the significant concessions Microsoft made in order to be competitive with Google. For example, we were put off by the fact that we would have to go through a third party company for email archiving and retention. We soon came to the realization that we would have to invest significant additional time and money into BPOS in order to meet our initial expectations of migrating to the cloud.

We decided to revisit Google Apps. For email archiving and retention, Google Message Discovery was easier to use, significantly cheaper, better integrated into the entire email migration process, and offered more features than the third party options available with BPOS. Once more, through the course of our lengthy evaluation, Google continued to update Apps’ functionality to incorporate virtually all of the features that we had valued in Microsoft’s offering. After updates such as Google Calendar Sync, which syncs events between Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook Calendar, and the ability to delegate calendar management to an administrative assistant, we had reached the tipping point where users adamant about using Outlook became confident in the capabilities of the Google Apps suite.

Following a rapid response by a combined team from Google and Google Apps Authorized Reseller, SADA Systems, Inc., Bergelectric quickly made plans to “Go Google.” Key components of the deployment included user synchronization between Active Directory and Google Apps, single sign-on to Apps using Active Directory credentials, migration of all data from Groupwise to Google (including historical email, contacts and calendar items), Google Apps integration with BlackBerry Enterprise Server, implementation of the Google Message Discovery product for mail archiving and discovery, and a complete training and change management effort to ensure the smoothest possible transition and high user adoption rates.

Our migration off the Groupwise platform has allowed the IT staff to focus its resources on more strategic, business-driven initiatives in the online space. The IT team has regained precious time previously spent patching and keeping the e-mail servers running and are now able to focus on things like business continuity and compliance. Employees have a generous 25 GB of e-mail storage and the ability access e-mail and collaboration tools from our many offices and remote project sites, whether it’s via a desktop, laptop or mobile device.

We were impressed by Google’s commitment to making it easy and simple for long-term on-premise users to migrate to the cloud. And Google’s data liberation policy gave us peace of mind that, if we ever wanted to move platforms, we’d be able to readily do so. Once more, their commitment to open standards and APIs allow us to access our own data and customize our implementation in ways that we never thought possible. As our business needs evolve, we can find additional apps in the Google Apps Marketplace or we can easily build our own on Google App Engine.

Overall, our employees have been extremely happy with the move to Google Apps. IT is relieved to finally have true redundancy, painless scalability and better control, all while no longer needing to maintain remote servers and tape backups. Management is pleased with the cost savings and vastly improved service offerings.

Posted by Kevin Gough, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Google Enterprise